ON TOP OF THE WORLD

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - The View From The Peak - As­so­ciate Pub­lisher and Chief Edi­tor

The lux­ury busi­ness is a cu­ri­ous thing. Like any busi­ness, there are is­sues of costs and qual­ity con­trol, dis­tri­bu­tion and rep­u­ta­tion. Un­like any other busi­ness, there is no prac­ti­cal ele­ment – it is solely about hav­ing fun, feel­ing good and look­ing good.

In Europe, there are well-es­tab­lished names and busi­nesses, whose rev­enues are into the bil­lions of eu­ros, and whose cor­po­rate bosses are of­ten found in the com­pany of gov­ern­ment min­is­ters and high pro­file celebri­ties. In Asia, while con­sumers are well aware of the world’s big­gest names in con­sum­ables, the full ex­tent of the lux­ury busi­ness is still strug­gling to fit in. And, the na­ture of the busi­ness is chang­ing – e-com­merce and al­go­rithms are do­ing as much to al­ter how peo­ple in­ter­act with brands as the way in which brands present them­selves. How it all shakes out may de­ter­mine which leg­endary names make it through the 21st cen­tury, and which ones emerge vic­to­ri­ous.

Our cover story this is­sue is Al­lan Zeman, a name syn­ony­mous with some of Hong Kong’s best known des­ti­na­tions: Lan Kwai Fong and Ocean Park. But be­fore the show­man­ship, the dress­ing up and later the semiof­fi­cial gov­ern­ment role, there was a hard­work­ing, driven man ea­ger to suc­ceed and ready to take a chance on equally driven young peo­ple who came into his or­bit. Zeman pi­o­neered the open desk lay­out and the co-work­ing con­cept decades be­fore the whole no­tion of start ups and en­trepreneur­ship took Hong Kong by storm.

Zeman is also both a pur­veyor and con­sumer of the lux­ury busi­ness. A de­sire to eat out in qual­ity, west­ern­style restau­rants led to his Lan Kwai Fong busi­ness. A pas­sion for be­ing on the wa­ter led to him be­com­ing a yacht owner, while also own­ing a ship­yard in Aberdeen. His story is an in­ter­est­ing look at what it took to boot­strap your way to suc­cess be­fore the in­ter­net and an­gel in­vestors were around.

Else­where in this is­sue, Stu­art Heaver takes a look at how China’s yacht builders have strug­gled and sur­vived in the era of Xi Jing­ping and the crack­down on con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion. Just af­ter the Global Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis, the world’s yacht brands came to China, des­per­ately seek­ing buy­ers. China’s newly wealthy busi­ness­men were ea­ger to snap up yachts, know­ing that it was a great sta­tus sym­bol, but with lit­tle ap­pre­ci­a­tion of how to use them. Zhuhai’s city gov­ern­ment even tried to en­cour­age a yacht build­ing park in its dis­trict.

To­day, the sit­u­a­tion is trick­ier – the clam­p­down on spend­ing has put a freeze on the mar­ket, but China’s builders are do­ing their best to ex­pand over­seas, and a few are mak­ing se­ri­ous in­roads into the world’s most de­mand­ing mar­ket.

We also fea­ture Her­mes CEO Axel Du­mas, the sixth gen­er­a­tion of the Her­mes fam­ily to helm the leg­endary brand name. Her­mes has gone from a rel­a­tively staid lux­ury brand in the 1970s to an in­ter­na­tional pow­er­house. Du­mas is keenly aware of his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to pre­serve the name, while at the same time ad­dress­ing the chal­lenges com­ing from the dig­i­tal age of the 21st cen­tury.

We also get the story of Goxip, an Asia-based start up by Juli­ette Gimenez, which helps young fash­ion shop­pers achieve the look they want us­ing search al­go­rithms. Young, dy­namic and ag­ile, she is launch­ing an Asia based chal­lenge to the es­tab­lished world of fash­ion that rests on clever pro­gram­ming rather than the wit of a sin­gle de­signer. How her world in­ter­acts with that of the Her­mes of the world will be the bat­tle of lux­ury to come. RYAN SWIFT

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